There’s a huge range of fruit and vegetables in season in the UK in September, from the late-ripening summer crops that need extra sunshine to the newer autumn season produce, including fragrant autumn raspberries, the first crisp apples, and a surplus of vegetables. You can also find a variety of fish that are now out of their spawning period, shellfish from cooler coastal waters, most game, and the first tangy cheeses.
Take a look at our favourite September finds.
Beetroot is more usually associated with the depths of winter, but it’s in late spring and summer that it is at its best and sweetest. If you get them whole, with leaves and stems still attached, make sure you use those too – swiss chard is basically the leaves of a beet plant. Use it as you would any spring greens – but if you are going to store the vegetables for a while, cut the leaves off and store them separately because they draw moisture away from the root, drying it out.
Recipe: Autumnal Beetroot Salad
How to grow guide:
Beetroot is easy to grow, takes up little space and are ideal for beginner growers. They’re also nutritious, delicious and versatile. Sow seeds little and often, for continuous cropping, harvesting when the roots are young, tender and the size of a golf ball. If you grow varieties for winter storage, it’s possible to have beetroot almost all year round.
Beetroot grows best in fertile, well-drained soil. Prior to sowing, dig in a bucketful of well-rotted garden compost or other organic matter. Then rake in a handful per square metre of general-purpose fertiliser.
When the seedlings are about 2.5cm high, thin out to leave one every 10cm. During dry spells, water every 10–14 days.
Beetroot can be harvested from early summer through to mid-autumn, depending on sowing time and variety. Pull up alternate plants once the roots are golf ball size, leaving the rest to reach maturity if you wish.
With their glossy, dark purple skins, aubergines are one of the most elegant-looking vegetables you’ll find in the shops. Although available all year round, they’re at their best – from August to October. Aubergines feature in cuisines all around the world, most famously in Mediterranean dishes such as moussaka and ratatouille and are known by various different names. In Britain, we’ve adopted the French word ‘aubergine’ while in North America it’s ‘eggplant’, and in South Asian countries it is known as brinjal.
Recipe: Baba Ghanoush
How to grow guide:
Aubergines are becoming increasingly popular, with the introduction of new cultivars with smaller fruits that crop more readily. Sunshine and warmth are the keys to success, so these tender plants do best in a greenhouse. Sow seeds early in the year in warm conditions indoors – even an airing cupboard will do.
Sow in pots filled with seed compost from February onwards. If the plants will be growing in a heated greenhouse, you can start them earlier, in January. If they will be growing outdoors, delay sowing indoors until early March, as these tender plants mustn’t be moved outside until after the last frost.
Keep the pots or modules at 18–21°C, either in a heated propagator or a warm location indoors. If germinating seeds in an airing cupboard, check daily and remove as soon as seedlings appear. Then place on a warm, bright windowsill.
You may need to look beyond the supermarket shelves to find them, but there’s an exciting variety of apples from UK orchards. From this week until May next year British apples are in their prime, as the first of the earlies start to appear at farmers’ markets and farm shops. If you’re lucky, you might have an apple tree within easy foraging distance or in your garden, its branches soon to be groaning with more fruit than you can munch, peel, bake, chutney, crumble, pie, jelly or jam.
Recipe: Apple Tarte Tatin
How to grow guide:
Apples are one of the easiest tree fruit to grow and the most popular with gardeners. You may be lucky enough to have one in your garden already, but if not, they are easy to establish. There are thousands of different types of apples, but they broadly fall into two categories: dessert apples for eating, and cooking apples, for cooking. Some are dual-purpose, so suitable for both uses.
Once established, apples require very little care throughout the year. Water apples during dry spells and from when the fruit starts to swell, particularly if they are newly planted or in containers. Apples ripen from late summer through to late autumn, depending on the variety. When they are ready to be picked, cup it in your hand, lift it gently and give a slight twist. It should come off easily with the stalk intact. If it doesn’t, then it’s not ready for picking.